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Zimbabwe: Chin’ono, Sikhala Protest Against Ill-Treatment By Prison Officers

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Freelance journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and Zengeza West constituency legislator Job Sikhala have protested against ill-treatment by Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service (ZPCS) officers, who are discriminating them against other prisoners by bringing them to court while handcuffed and shackled in leg irons and defying court orders.

Although Harare Magistrate Lazini Ncube had ordered ZPCS officers to transport Chin’ono to and from prison separately from other prisoners to minimise the risk of spreading coronavirus as the freelance journalist is a recent contact of some people who tested positive to coronavirus, the prison guards defied the court order and continued to ferry him together with other inmates.

Chin’ono’s lawyers Harrison Nkomo, Paidamoyo Saurombe and Gift Mtisi of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) told Magistrate Ncube that ZPCS officers were defying a court order issued by Ncube ordering the prison guards not to handcuff or shackle the freelance journalist in leg irons.

Sikhala’s lawyers Jeremiah Bamu, Nkomo and Saurombe, who appeared before Magistrate Ngoni Nduna, also protested against the ill-treatment of their client, who was brought to court while handcuffed and in leg irons.

The lawyers protested that ZPCS officers were discriminating against Chin’ono and Sikhala as they were the only ones being shacked while other prisoners including those facing serious offences such as rape were not being subjected to such ill-treatment.

Assistant Commissioner Gapare from ZPCS will appear in court on Friday 15 January 2021 and respond to allegations of ill-treatment raised by Sikhala.

Chin’ono, whose application for refusal of remand was dismissed on Wednesday 13 January 2021 by Magistrate Ncube, will return to court on Thursday 14 January 2021, where a ruling on his bail application will be handed down.

Sikhala, who also had his application for refusal of remand dismissed by Magistrate Nduna, will return to court too on Thursday 14 January 2021 for continuation of his bail application before Magistrate Nduna.

Meanwhile, opposition MDC-Alliance party spokesperson Advocate Fadzayi Mahere will return to court on Friday 15 January 2021, where Magistrate Trynos Utahwashe will hand down his ruling on her application challenging the State’s bid to place her on remand on charges of publishing or communicating false statements prejudicial to the state as defined in section 31(a)(i) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act alternatively section 31(a)(iii) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.

Advocate Mahere, who is represented by David Drury and Andria Dracos of Honey and Blanckenberg Legal Practitioners and is assisted by Tinashe Chinopfukutwa of ZLHR, was arrested by Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) members on Sunday 10 January 2021.

On Tuesday 12 January 2021 when she appeared before Magistrate Utahwashe, she raised several complaints against ZRP members, whom she accused of detaining her in squalid cells at Harare Central Police Station, which are not fit for habitation.

Advocate Mahere told Magistrate Utahwashe that suspects were not being subjected to temperature checks and were not provided with face masks while in detention cells.

The MDC-Alliance party spokesperson disclosed that detained women were not being provided with sanitary ware and there was no toilet paper in the detention cells which were reeking of stale urine.

Magistrate Utahwashe ordered the State to probe the complaints filed by Advocate Mahere and provide him with a report by Friday 15 January 2021.

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